Unemployment: New claims increase but continuing claims trend downwards

The unemployment picture has gotten complex, as multiple types of 'extended' and 'continuing' unemployment protections try to cushion the long, slow jobless recovery.

SoldAtTheTop / The Paper Economy
The jobless recovery continues. New 'initial' unemployment claims are up, but the continuing unemployment story is more complex. Total continued unemployment claims (blue area, left axis) jumped about 400,000 from last week, but are mostly falling from their January 2010 high. 'Extended unemployment' claims (black line) and 2008 extended unemployment claims ('EUC 2008', green line) both ticked up, but 'continued unemployment' claims (red line) declined.

Today’s jobless claims report showed a notable increase to initial unemployment claims while continued claims declined as a continued flattening trend shaped up for initial claims and traditional continued claims continued to trend down.

Seasonally adjusted “initial” unemployment increased by 20,000 to 457,000 claims from last week’s revised 437,000 claims while “continued” claims declined by 42,000 resulting in an “insured” unemployment rate of 3.4%.

Since the middle of 2008 though, two federal government sponsored “extended” unemployment benefit programs (the “extended benefits” and “EUC 2008” from recent legislation) have been picking up claimants that have fallen off of the traditional unemployment benefits rolls.

Currently there are some 5.01 million people receiving federal “extended” unemployment benefits.

RELATED STORY: When unemployment extensions end, a movement rises: the 99ers

Taken together with the latest 3.76 million people that are currently counted as receiving traditional continued unemployment benefits, there are 8.77 million people on state and federal unemployment rolls.

The following chart shows the recent trend in initial non-seasonally adjusted initial jobless claims with the year-over-year percent change acting as a rough equivalent of a seasonally adjustment.

Historically, unemployment claims both “initial” and “continued” (ongoing claims) are a good leading indicator of the unemployment rate and inevitably the overall state of the economy.

The following chart shows “population adjusted” continued claims (ratio of unemployment claims to the non-institutional population) and the unemployment rate since 1967.

Adjusting for the general increase in population tames the continued claims spike down a bit.

The following chart (click for larger version) shows “initial” and “continued” claims, averaged monthly, overlaid with U.S. recessions since 1967.

Also, acceleration and deceleration of unemployment claims has generally preceded comparable movements to the unemployment rate by 3 – 8 months (click for larger version).

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